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UK Parliament Week: Calls for greater representation in parliament as national festival begins

12th November 2018

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A week that will seek to empower young people by engaging them with parliament has launched today.

Credit: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

UK Parliament Week, which runs from today (Monday 12th November) until the 18th, will see events taking place across the UK, including the naming of a Lego suffragette and the unveiling of public artworks.

UK Parliament Week 2017 reached more than 360,000 people, with over 4,500 events. This year there are more than 7,000 registered events, with over 500,000 people expected to take part. Participating organisations include Scouts, Girlguiding, and the British Youth Council.

UK Parliament Week this year forms part of parliament’s #Vote100 programme, which celebrates a year of historically important political milestones - including some women begin granted the right to vote, and women legally being allowed to become MPs for the first time.

February 6th 2018 marked exactly 100 years since the Representation of the People Act, with parliament kicking off a year-long series of events and exhibitions commemorating the women and men who fought to achieve electoral equality.

Credit: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

The long-term aim of UK Parliament Week is to create more equal representation in parliament. Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons, calls it “an excellent opportunity to draw attention to the work we must do to achieve the thriving parliamentary democracy the UK needs.”

She adds that the week: “allows us to shine a light on how our democracy works, how campaigning for change can make a real difference, and how more people can take part in politics.”

Throughout the week, the public will be invited to suggest a name for a specially commissioned Lego suffragette. Nominations are requested via the #NameOurSister hashtag on Twitter, and will be open until 18th November. Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Emmeline, will choose a shortlist before the public is given the final say.   

The Lego suffragette will be used in the UK Parliament Education Centre, and will also loaned across the UK to schools, museums and organisations to help teach generations to come about the fight for equal voting rights.

Credit: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

Students from Priestley College in Warrington have joined the campaign early, nominating history and politics teacher Jenny George:

The week will also feature House of Doors, a public art project that explores how society has changed as a result of women getting the vote, which will be on display in Westminster Hall during UK Parliament Week.  

Credit: UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor

Other events include a time capsule where female MPs and members of the Youth Parliament will write letters with their hopes for the future. The Coca-Cola London Eye, on London’s Southbank, will also be lit up in Suffragette colours.

A spokesperson for Girlguiding’s Advocate panel, a group of Girlguiding young members aged 14-25 who lead the direction of the organisation’s research and campaigns, said that UK Parliament Week is “a fantastic opportunity that enables girls and young women like us to participate in creating the world they want to see in the future.”

Celebrations are continuing throughout the rest of the year, with the 21st November marking 100 years since the passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, which allowed women over 21 to become MPs for the first time. The vote was won after a more than 50-year long campaign, driven by people from all corners of the UK, the struggle being passed on from generation to generation.

The 14th December marks a hundred years since the 1918 General Election, when women over 30 and all men over 21 were able to cast their first vote.

Girlguiding’s Advocate panel adds that UK Parliament Week “is a way of reaching out beyond Westminster and giving more people a chance to get involved in democracy.

“Girlguiding members across the country have been celebrating Parliament Week by marking one of the most important centenaries in British democratic history – the year that some women first got the vote.”

Dame Laura Cox’s 2017 report showed that a  record high of 32% women MPs were elected to the House of Commons in 2017’s General Election.

Find out more at #UKPW18, #Vote100, @UKParliament and #NameOurSister

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